A very special mom: Kristine Fontana
Updated: June 4, 2012 10:27AM
May is the month we remember mothers. There are moms that make you laugh, make you stronger, know when to hug, cry, or simply listen. There are moms who are there for their families, and moms who are there for everyone.
Kristine Fontana of Lake Bluff had love and time enough for everyone. She’ll be remembered on Mother’s Day weekend as her family and friends, “Team Fontana” as they are known, run and walk in her memory, raising funds for the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) at their seventh annual “Breakthrough for Brain Tumors 5K Run/Walk” on May 12 in Chicago.
Kristine lost her life at age 41 to a glioblastoma multiforme tumor in 2009, and her husband, Richard, and three children -- Marla, Jillian and Nick -- mark Mother’s Day each year honoring a “very special” wife and mom who’s gift in life was making others feel “very special.” Richard says, “Kristine was my best friend, teaching me things in life that I will never forget, giving me three beautiful children that remind me of her each day.”
Daughter Marla adds, “My mom’s smile was warm and something I think everyone will remember. Her laugh was unique, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about her.”
The third of four daughters, Kristine was the proclaimed “Dear Abby” of her extended family and friends. Her mom, Pat Papas, and sisters Beth McIlvaine and Andrea Cutting, all of Lake Forest, agree that Kristine was the “peacemaker” of their clan, staying close to those near or far, including youngest sister Diane in San Francisco. They also say she turned away from the spotlight and would be embarrassed and laughing to be written about in the paper today.
Kristine’s life gifts included her volunteerism. She could be found donating time at her kids’ Lake Bluff schools, Lake Forest’s Gorton Drop-in Center, the local Girl Scouts. Dedicating efforts to organizations that were important to her family was simply what she did, part of a full and joyful life that also included many girlfriends.
Time for friends meant fun outings with the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Junior Women’s Club, long walks, girls’ nights out, knowing when a girlfriend “needed to share a big hug, a big laugh or a big cocktail.” Her smile and laughter were infectious, and sense of humor remained even when her brain tumor took away the ability to speak. Being present for friends was a big reason Kristine was cherished by so many, including old friends from Lake Forest High School and longtime work friends from American Airlines.
Kristine balanced marriage and motherhood with a passion for her longstanding career as a flight attendant, and thoroughly enjoyed the friendships and travel that came along with her job. A positive attitude was evident in all walks of her life, and now, others walk and run in her name, hoping to prevent anyone else from losing a loved one to a brain tumor.
Kristine herself walked in three ABTA 5K walk/runs before she died, never questioning the “why” of her diagnosis, a beaming smile illuminating her Mother’s Day weekends in the face of an unforgiving illness she courageously battled for over four years.
The American Brain Tumor Association and “Team Fontana” need your help. Log onto www.abta.org to donate or take part in this year’s event. To Team Fontana, thank you for sharing this very special mom with us. We’ll be cheering for you on Mother’s Day weekend!
Lake Forester columnist Maria Malin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org